The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

April 6, 2013

My ‘time-out’ as a kid was a spank on the butt

By Lynn Saternow
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---- — Today when kids act up, we give them a ‘time-out.’ When I was growing up we had time-outs also.

My dad took time out from what he was doing to whip my behind.

OK, that’s an old joke. And in truth, there were only a few times I can remember when a spanking came into play. That’s because I was as perfect a child as I am now as an adult.

But it is apropos after reading a story in Friday’s Herald about a Pennsylvania lawmaker who wants to put together a bill that would draw a line between spanking and child abuse.

As the story relates, corporal punishment by parents is still legal in all 50 states. There are differing opinions on whether it is effective. Many so-called child-raising experts claim there is never a time a parent should strike a child.

But most of us who did have the occasional spanking turned out just fine. We even had teachers and principals decades back that “applied the wood” so to speak to more than a few rear ends.

Some teachers proudly displayed their hand-crafted paddles near their desks, just as a threat.

And in a way, corporal punishment was a deterrent to bad behavior in the classroom. In fact, some parents believed that if you received a spanking in school you received another one when you got home.

That would be “double jeopardy” in a court of law, but not in most homes in the 1950s or ’60s.

Spanking in schools is pretty much gone, but so is the stringent discipline that once applied. Of course, part of that is there isn’t the same support for teachers from parents as there once was.

However, the right of parents to use corporal punishment is something that is difficult to control. And yes, I’m sure at times it becomes physical abuse when some parents take it too far. Then again, mental abuse can be even worse.

As lawmakers consider where to draw a line between corporal punishment and child abuse, it won’t be easy. In fact, it may be impossible. Doctors have ways of determining if child injuries are possible abuse, but even they have a difficult duty.

It will be interesting to see if the state can develop a formula that is acceptable in a court of law. There is no doubt that some children need that kind of protection.

• Speaking of abuse. How about the national news concerning Rutgers coach Mike Rice, who was fired after videos of him abusing players at practice. He was seen shoving players and throwing basketballs at them.

He used homophobic slurs.

While I certainly don’t condone such actions, welcome to the world of NCAA major sports. Don’t ever think that Rice is the only coach who does that kind of thing. And don’t ever think that the school athletic director and president don’t look the other way or deal out hand-slaps when it is uncovered.

However, these aren’t young kids anymore. They can speak up for themselves. It’s part of growing up.

My college wrestling coach and I had a few serious verbal confrontations at practice and we were fine later.

Now reports are coming out that the players shoved him too at times and just considered it horsing around. It was part of the culture in the practice room.

One good thing will come of it. All coaches will take a look at how they handle practice and may change abusive ways.

Then again, you can bet there will be less videotaping of practices.



The Herald’s Lynn Saternow writes this column each Saturday for the Opinion Page. His email is lsaternow@sharonherald.com.